'We're working on war footing,' says Pakistani doctor from Saudi Arabia's COVID-19 team

Dr Zia Ullah Khan Dawar is posing for a photograph with other members of Saudi Arabia's COVID-19 team at a quarantine center in Makkah. (Photo courtesy: Zia Ullah Khan Dawar)
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Updated 23 May 2020

'We're working on war footing,' says Pakistani doctor from Saudi Arabia's COVID-19 team

  • Says Pakistani doctors are considered very competent, trustworthy in Kingdom
  • The Pakistani public health specialist has been living in Saudi Arabia for the past four years

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s concerted coronavirus response has paid off by bringing the disease spread under control, a Pakistani doctor working for the kingdom’s health ministry told Arab News, as he described the approach taken by Riyadh to contain the outbreak. 

“It is an emergency assignment and we are working on war footing,” Dr. Zia Ullah Khan Dawar said in an interview on Thursday, but added that effective and efficient leadership, data-driven policy, enhanced testing and citizens’ strict adherence to health guidelines have made Saudi Arabia’s anti-COVID-19 efforts successful.




Pakistani Dr Zia Ullah Khan Dawar is seen at a quarantine center in Jeddah. (Photo courtesy: Zia Ullah Khan Dawar)

“The Saudi ministry of health is taking concerted approach to flatten and squash the curve,” he said, “Whenever any positive case reported, we immediately go there and do the needful.”

The Pakistani public health specialist has been living in Saudi Arabia for the past four years, earlier serving in its programs to stem tuberculosis, dengue fever and malaria. 

“Pakistani doctors and specialists are seen as very competent, trustworthy, skillful and are enjoying great respect, recognition and very good reputation among the public and the government,” he said.

Dawar currently works for the health ministry’s Jeddah office, in its team for COVID-19 surveillance and data analysis.




Pakistani doctor Zia Ullah Khan Dawar is sitting at his office in Jeddah. (Photo courtesy: Zia Ullah Khan Dawar)

“Saudi government policy is in line with World Health Organization (WHO) standard guidelines,” Dawar said as he explained that concerned ministries cooperate with each other in implementing different strategies such as complete or selective lockdowns, social distancing and self-isolation, contact tracing, and enhanced testing and monitoring. 

He said that in Jeddah alone, the government has established 37 fully equipped quarantine centers at hotels and new buildings. Separate facilities are provided to the contacts of persons who tested positive for COVID-19, those who are asymptomatic virus carriers, and those who entered the kingdom from abroad.


Mid-Eastern eateries add to Eid spreads in Islamabad

Updated 31 min 10 sec ago

Mid-Eastern eateries add to Eid spreads in Islamabad

  • Owners say home delivery orders increased more than 20 % in Ramadan as netizens crave for Arab cuisines
  • All checks in place to ensure anti-virus measures are being followed during lockdown, restaurants say

ISLAMABAD: Despite countrywide lockdown closing doors of some of the most sought-after restaurants for costumers in Islamabad, Arab cuisines remained a staple at Ramadan & Eid meals for the food lovers, said the restaurant owners.

A man at Arz Lebanon restaurant in Islamabad grills kebabs for food parcels on May 20, 2020. (AN Photo)

Many Middle Eastern eateries are staying afloat by delivering food at the doorstep as people could not gather for group meals with friends and families under government-imposed restrictions to enjoy a bite of their favorite dishes served in a chic and sometimes traditional ambiance.

With a dedicated delivery service, Arz Lebanon, a medium-sized joint in Islamabad’s upscale Jinnah Super Market has been busy catering to growing home-delivery orders with an exclusive Iftar menu including over 12 different dishes during the fasting month of Ramadan and the Eid festivities.

Staff of Arz Lebanon restaurant in Islamabad is preparing food parcels for home delivery on May 20, 2020. (AN Photo)

“We have made Ramadan package this year with a small menu of 12 Arab dishes,” Sheikh Abdul Rauf, the chief chef and owner of Arz Labanon restaurant told Arab News.

“Our famous dishes include mix Arab barbeque, hummus, fatosh, tabbouleh, cheese manakish and harbora,” he added hinting at the popular cravings of Islamabad’s food lovers.

Staff of Arz Lebanon restaurant in Islamabad are taking order for takeaway delivery on May 20, 2020. (AN Photo)

He said that a lot of regular customers, both Arabs and Pakistanis, insisted through phone calls to serve them Arab food during Ramadan and on Eid.

The restaurant is among a list of eateries that remained closed for almost one-and-a-half month during lockdown and then thought of a smart comeback, while quite a few still remain closed including popular attractions like Serai Bistro situated at the capital’s diplomatic enclave – serving Lebanese, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food – and Omar Khayyam.

An employee of Arz Lebanon restaurant in Islamabad delivers a takeaway order to a customer on May 20, 2020. The restaurant does not allow customers inside the dining space. (AN Photo)

“Before covid-19, the staff at my restaurant was 45 now I am working with only seven employees to maintain social distancing,” Rauf said, adding that they use disinfectant spray for the entire staff before commencing work and also check their body temperature through thermal scanner at least three to four times a day.

“We are serving only takeaways and home delivery orders. I am getting around 70 delivery orders daily which is 20 percent more than usual days and a lot of people come for takeaway as well,” Rauf informed. ” Most of my Arab customers order home delivery these days. We have three vans for this purpose. Pakistani customers take both home delivery and takeaway,” he said.

Another big attraction for the Islamabadians is Syrian ‘Shawarma’ in F-10 Markaz area, prepared in authentic Arab style by Abu Amir aka Adnan who came to Pakistan in 2011 fleeing the complex civil war in his homeland.

Abu Amir, a Syrian Shawarma maker is busy cutting fresh slices of meat for parcels at his food kiosk in F-10 area of Islamabad on May 20, 2020. (AN Photo)

“My major dish is shawarma and sheesh taouq while in Ramadan I also started serving basbousa, kunafa and baklava,” Amir told Arab News.

“We provide home delivery through bike-riding services. People also visit us for take-aways,” he said.

Amir said that coronavirus pandemic had adversely affected his business but home delivery increased during Ramadan.

Abu Amir, a Syrian Shawarma maker is busy cutting fresh slices of meat for parcels at his food kiosk in F-10 area of Islamabad on May 20, 2020. (AN Photo)

“I used to sell around 450 shawarmas daily before the pandemic but now the number has reduced. On the other hand, request for home deliveries increased from around 30 orders earlier to approximately 100 now a days,” he added.

On the south side of Shawarma guy in F-10 markaz, another home delivery option for Arab food lovers is Al-Beirut kitchen which provides only home delivery order of trending Lebanese and Arab foods. 

“We are providing home delivery only and that also by ensuring all precautions. Our customers are very loyal as we are delivering for the past two decades in Islamabad,” Ahmad Shabbir, the restaurant manager told Arab News. “Business got better in the second half of Ramadan after re-opening of markets,” he added.